This spring, the USFL completed its second season after the league’s rebirth in 2022. The XFL successfully finished their third relaunch in May. And while these leagues are still figuring out ways to be financially viable, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell explained on Saturday why these leagues are so important to the game of football.
“I think it’s the development to be able to play and then find this talent and bring them in and now let’s see if they can play at this level against this competition,” Campbell said. “I think it’s huge. It’s big. Because ultimately, you can try to develop, you can do all these things, but if you can’t play the game and get reps after reps of real-time game, it’s hard to accelerate it. It’s hard. You only have three preseason games.”
Campbell pointed, specifically, to the NFL careers of two legends: defensive lineman La’Roi Glover and guard Marco Rivera. Both players were late-round picks who couldn’t find early success in the NFL. However, both spent a year in NFL Europe and got some actual, competitive football under their belt. Glover went on for 11 years after that, earning six Pro Bowl appearances and being named All Pro four times. Rivera was a two-time All Pro and a three-time Pro Bowler.
“They’re promising, but man, they need to play,” Campbell said. “Send them over to Europe for the spring, they come back and next thing you know, La’Roi Glover is All-Decade Team. He’s unbelievable. Marco Rivera, All-Pro guard for Green Bay for years.”
This offseason, the Lions have dipped into the spring league pool on a couple of occasions. Kicker Parker Romo was named All-XFL in 2023, and now he’s neck-and-neck with Riley Patterson for the Lions’ kicker job. Recently-signed cornerback Tae Hayes played for the Birmingham Stallions in 2022, and both newly-signed tight ends Darrell Daniels and Daniel Helm had stints in the USFL, with Helm catching 20 passes for 205 yards this spring.
Will any of these guys become the next Glover or Rivera? It’s a long shot. But Campbell is still thankful to have a new pool of experienced players to help their roster when the NFL season rolls around.